Could the 3-5-2 Formation Ever Work for Jurgen Klinsmann and the USMNT?

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2015

United States' manager Jurgen Klinsmann watches his side during the international friendly soccer match between the Republic of Ireland and the United States,  at the Aviva stadium, Dublin, Ireland, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
Peter Morrison/Associated Press

In the United States men's national team's 3-2 defeat to Chile on Wednesday night, manager Jurgen Klinsmann lined his side up in a 3-5-2 formation for the first time. 

The January friendly against Chile's "B" team was a perfect time for Klinsmann to experiment with the setup, but it produced a mixed bag of results. 

Whether we see the 3-5-2 again is up to Klinsmann, but there is potential for it to work with the right personnel. 

The USMNT defense was once again a model of inconsistency on Wednesday, as Matt Besler and Jermaine Jones turned in less than average performances in their first international matches of 2015. 

Jones was positioned in the center of the back three, which seemed to be a good fit based on his leadership qualities and tackling ability. Despite all of the positive thoughts around the New England Revolution player at center-back, he did not perform well. 

Leander Schaerlaeckens @LeanderAlphabet

There's sound reasoning for dropping Jermaine Jones back a line. But you also bring that one big turnover per game 20 yards close to goal...

Jones exhibited many tendencies of a player who lines up in the defensive midfield, which is his normal position for club and country. There would have been nothing wrong with Jones moving up the pitch in search of possession if he lined up in front of the back three. But he failed to perform the correct tasks of a center-back, which has to be expected given his lack of time at the position.

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Besler, who went through a rough end to the 2014 Major League Soccer season with Sporting Kansas City, did not display a ton of improvement on the left of Jones.

Outside of his beautiful assist to set up Brek Shea's opening goal, the 27-year-old had a rough day at the back. His biggest error came on Chile's first equalizer, as he and Jones lost track of Roberto Gutierrez in the 10th minute.

The Sporting Kansas City defender was left exposed on a few other occasions, which was not the case for Steve Birnbaum, who impressed many on his first appearance for the Yanks. 

The 24-year-old did not panic under pressure and played a composed game of soccer in the usually chaotic United States defense.

Ives Galarcep @SoccerByIves

Birnbaum as right marking CB in 3-5-2 makes sense. Was really impressive as a rookie w/D.C. Poised newcomer who, at 24, isn't exactly a kid

Since the defensive setup was not a total disaster, there is hope for a back three to thrive if the right anchor is in place. 

The problem with that is the options are slim in the defensive ranks at the moment. World Cup veterans Omar Gonzalez and John Brooks could step into the middle of the back three, but there are concerns about both players.

Gonzalez hasn't been in the best international form over the last year, while Brooks' young age may limit his leadership abilities. 

Another option to consider is FC Dallas center-back Matt Hedges, who, like Birnbaum, is looking to prove he belongs on the defensive depth chart. 

A back three anchored by Jones is not the answer for the Yanks, but there is hope for the formation to succeed from a defensive perspective if a few players prove to Klinsmann they can thrive in the system. 

One of the main reasons why Klinsmann opted to switch to the 3-5-2 was the presence of DeAndre Yedlin, who was an absolute menace on the right wing during the first half. 

Kyle McCarthy @kylejmccarthy

Klinsmann said he went with 3-5-2 at the outset based on the available personnel. #USMNT

Yedlin's pace caused plenty of problems, and he was able to create threatening attacking chances, which came as an added bonus throughout the first 45 minutes, when the 3-5-2 was utilized. 

The 21-year-old Tottenham Hotspur player will be a key asset to the Yanks for years to come, but the team also can't be too reliant on him.

Outside of his sixth-minute opener, Brek Shea was all over the place on the left wing. The Orlando City player once again showed his potential as a scorer and his weakness as a defender while the 3-5-2 was used by the USMNT. 

Luis Hidalgo/Associated Press

Shea and Yedlin have the potential to form a solid wing pair, but the 3-5-2 system is not the right choice if those two are to be employed on the wide part of the midfield.

If Klinsmann wants to experiment with the 3-5-2 again, he should wait until Fabian Johnson comes into camp. Johnson is a reliable defender and has the attacking prowess of a winger. 

When Johnson and Yedlin are at their best, they will be a matchup nightmare for any opposing defense, which is why the 3-5-2 still has some solid potential.

However, if the USMNT boss wants to set up in a 3-5-2 again, he has to use Jones as a defensive midfielder.

Over the first 30 minutes of the match, the central-midfield pairing of Michael Bradley and Mix Diskerud were quiet on both sides of the ball. 

Luis Hidalgo/Associated Press

Diskerud did spring to life on the right edge of the penalty area in the 31st minute to provide Jozy Altidore with a splendid assist, but that was his only key contribution.

As the engine of the midfield, the central players must make an impact from the first to last minute of the match. A team also needs the players in the pairing to complement each other, which is what you get with Bradley and Jones. 

One of the best qualities of the Bradley-Jones pairing is each player's understanding of the game. Both have the talent to move forward and cause havoc in attack, but they can also raise hell on defense with their tackling.

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

For the 3-5-2 to be successful for the Americans, the midfield pairing must take turns shifting forward when the time is appropriate. If that occurs, the back three will not be left hanging when opponents counter. 

As for the forwards in the formation, they will be effective if the creative midfielders are able to express themselves throughout the entire the pitch. 

The right in-form forwards must also be used by Klinsmann instead of an out-of-form player such as Bobby Wood. 

Like it or not, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore will occupy two of the three forward-minded positions in the formation, which leaves space for one other dynamic attacker to collaborate with them. 

Luis Hidalgo/Associated Press

Some will mention Diskerud as the answer to that problem and others will make a case for Lee Nguyen to be handed more playing time. In either situation, Dempsey would push up the pitch as the second forward next to Altidore.

If Dempsey remains in a midfield role behind the pair of forwards, the Yanks will have to develop a second viable scoring option. Whether it be Aron Johannsson, Gyasi Zardes, Rubio Rubin or Chris Wondolowski, someone needs to step up at the position so Altidore doesn't face all of the pressure up top. 

A loss on the road to Chile in the first friendly of 2015 should not deter Klinsmann from attempting to use the 3-5-2 formation again. 

With six more friendlies before the CONCACAF Gold Cup and countless training sessions in between, adjustments in formation and personnel should be expected. If he gets everything right, Klinsmann's 3-5-2 could become a major success.

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

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